Personal Photography Project of Stacey Haslem

learning the light

What is/was your personal project and what inspired you to start it?

The term personal project makes me giggle.  Seeing as though I don’t take any commissioned work, most work I do could fall into the personal project category.  But, now, I am just talking semantics. In March of this year, our family had a huge move. While it was only ten miles down the road, it is in the country with lots of land. One would think that my project would be capturing my four children outdoors exploring. Yet for some reason I was inspired to take the opposite approach. My project has been completely centered on learning the light inside our new home.

I took this approach for several reasons. The first being, that so much happens within the walls of our home. I want to capture those memories in a way I find satisfying – meaning in good light. Secondly, how often do you hear a photographer being inspired by light?  I, too, am often inspired by light. The more I study the light, the more light I will see. Thus, I believe more inspiration will come. I also think about how quickly a moment can pass by with a child. In the time it takes to grab my camera and figure out the settings I need, the moment may have passed. However, if I know the settings, because I know the light, I may just capture that moment. In my old home, I often knew what my settings would be without having to meter. It was second nature. I look forward to get to that point in this home.

Basically, I want to see and capture the beauty within my own home.  Light is essential.

the personal photography project of California photographer Stacey Haslem

the personal photography project of California photographer Stacey Haslem
Top image: subject six feet from main light source camera left, spot metered face, taken with 35mm lens at 1/50 sec, f/1.4, iso 400. Bottom image: subject is 6’ from light source, spot metered on her face, taken with 35mm lens at 1/500 sec, f/2, iso 800

Are there any challenges or ruts you faced during your project and how did you overcome them and keep a creative eye?

I started this project during the summer. I got really distracted when I purchased a camera with underwater housing. I was spending a lot of time at the bottom of the pool with a camera instead of in the house. It was not the best timing. The fall would have been more conducive as we are in the house more often.

There were also the common moving challenges; unpacked boxes months later, windows missing blinds or curtains, an empty room, etc. Boxes would be in the way and the lack of curtains and blinds make it impossible to manipulate the light. I haven’t shot much in those rooms. I am trying to find the perfect window coverings so I am patiently waiting. Then I will spend days in those rooms.

the personal photography project of California photographer Stacey Haslem
Subject directly in front of light source, spot metered on dress, taken with 35mm at 1/200 sec, f/5.6, iso 800.

What have you learned through your process with your personal project?

This project has reaffirmed my love of indoor light. It also reminded me that not all light is created equal – sometimes it’s soft, sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it is warm and sometimes not so much. Most of all, sometimes the light works and sometimes it does not. In any given area, the light at 7 a.m. is not the same as the light at 3 p.m.

Light can change a location. By manipulating the light or shooting at different times of the day, a location can look completely different and unique. Sometimes I needed to close a door to keep light from leaking in from a hall. Keeping the curtains closed to filter the light, gave a room a softer quality of light. Moving my little girl around in the light would have vastly different outcomes.

All of the images below are in the same room and using the exact same light source. The first image is taken later in the day. The light is not as strong and you can see more detail in the background. The second image is in the morning when the sun shines brightly. Even with the curtains closed, you can’t see detail behind it. The third image below, is taken in between the two, midday. We can see the details in the curtains, but it is still bright enough to backlight her and lose detail behind her.

the personal photography project of California photographer Stacey Haslem
Subject directly in front of light source, spot-metered from her shirt, shot with 35mm lens at 1/400 sec, f/2.0, iso 200.

the personal photography project of California photographer Stacey Haslem
Subject directly in front of light source, spot-metered from hand, shot with 35mm lens at 1/400 sec, f/1.4, iso 250.

the personal photography project of California photographer Stacey Haslem
Subject directly in front of light source, spot-metered from face, shot with 45mm tilt shift lens at 1/320 sec, f/3.0, iso 1250.

The next two images are still using the same windows as a light source. This time she is being a silly little girl rolling around on the floor.  The windows are a couple feet camera left of her.  In the last image, as she is farther back, the light takes on a very soft quality while she naps on the bed.

the personal photography project of California photographer Stacey Haslem

the personal photography project of California photographer Stacey Haslem
Top image: subject two feet from main light source camera left, spot metered face, taken with 35mm lens at 1/500 sec, f/1.4, iso 250. Bottom image: subject is 10’ from light source, spot metered on her face, taken with 45mm tilt shift lens at 1/200 sec, f/4, iso 1250

Is there anything additional about your project that readers may find interesting?

There are magical light moments in the day. In my old home, there was this small window that was west facing in a corner of my living room. Most times of the day, it didn’t have much to offer. If you waited until late afternoon there was an hour or two that the light shone brightly. With the blinds nearly closed downward, it created a magical pocket of light. In this home, if you are up early, there is a warm ray of light that shines from the dining room into the living room. It is just a sliver of light, but it glows brilliantly. Finding those light moments are rewarding and delightful.

the personal photography project of California photographer Stacey Haslem
Subject 15’ from light source, spot-metered from face, shot with 35mm lens at 1/160 sec, f/1.4, iso 500.

the personal photography project of California photographer Stacey Haslem
Subject 1’ from light source, spot-metered from face, shot with 50mm lens at 1/200 sec, f/12.5, iso 1600.

The first image above is the magical sliver of light that shows itself early in the morning. The second image was a moment I happened upon by chance. I was headed into the kitchen as I walked by and saw the beautiful light shining in as Leah colored. I am sure there will be many more possibilities by manipulating the blinds that were already in this room.

I love that there are images just waiting to be captured throughout my home.